It was an emotional and poignant evening in a chilly park in New York City where the death of Trayvon Martin was commemorated amid stirring speeches and a candlelight memorial for the Black 17-year-old who was killed one year ago.
The parents of the teenager led the somber memorial event in Union Square Park in Manhattan that lasted a little more than a half hour. They both wore hoodies, a remembrance of the outfit their son was wearing when he was shot while walking unarmed in a gated community in Sanford, Florida.
“I have one son on earth and one son in heaven,” said Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon's mother, who steadily wiped away tears while walking toward the rally. “And I’m going to continue to fight for my boys as well as for your boys and girls,” she said, speaking to several hundred people who gathered for the event.
“Trayvon is in heaven and he’s resting in God’s hand. Thank you all for your support. Thank you for your prayers,” she said.
Tracy Martin, the father of the dead teenager, said that though it was a somber commemoration, “it is also a day of peace.” He said, “We know we have done all we could have done to make a difference.”
In fact, the event in Manhattan underscored just how much the death of Trayvon Martin had become a national symbol to many of racial profiling at its most horrific. By Tuesday night’s rally and vigil, the teenager’s name had achieved epic notoriety, gripping the attention of everyone from teenagers in America’s urban areas to President Obama.
The Union Square Park rally was attended by Academy Award-winning actor Jamie Foxx as well as Michael Eric Dyson, the author, sociologist and television commentator, and Trayvon's parents' lawyer Benjamin Crump.
The hundreds of attendees lit candles and observed a moment of silence at 7:17 p.m., the time Trayvon was shot on Feb. 26, 2012.
“We are here because it is the one-year anniversary of the forced martyrdom of a young man who sought nothing more than to exercise his right to breathe with and to exist without the unnecessary harm and unnecessary hatred that were directed his way,” Dyson said, with responses of "Amen" coming from the crowd. “He was the victim of a hate crime.”
He added: “We will not allow his memory to die or his life to be lived in vain. We are here because Trayvon is us and we are Trayvon.”
Dyson went to invoke the name of the neighborhood watch volunteer who shot and killed Trayvon Martin. “The life of George Zimmerman should not be placed above the life of Trayvon Martin,” he said, “Race should not make a difference in this country [when justice is concerned]. We know that this young Black boy was a victim of stereotype, a lazy person’s way of thinking about the other. We are here to rebut that.”
Foxx, who has spoken at events in support of Trayvon's parents in recent months, made his appeal highly personal.
“Don’t think about the color of that child,” he told the hushed audience. “Think about that child going to school, Think about that child hanging out with his father, with his mom, skiing, skateboarding. Doing all the fun things that a 17-year-old child does.” He continued: “And think about that child on his way home to see his father and, all of a sudden, that child has his life taken from him.”
Foxx then called for justice to be served and for the court proceedings to be allowed to go forth fairly. That was a not-so-veiled reference to a hearing in April, where a court is expected to decide whether Zimmerman will be allowed to invoke Florida’s highly controversial "Stand Your Ground" law.
The law allows Floridians to use deadly force if they feel they face imminent danger. Zimmerman, who will be on trial for second-degree murder charges, is seeking to invoke that law, which would essentially nullify the murder trial set to begin in June.
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